Tomorrow we may have to hold the prayer meeting at the Wavell Canteen, where many refugees are living. I have been there once and I was asked then to hold the prayer meeting there, but I could not stay on. Today someone from the camp came and requested me and I have agreed to go there tomorrow. So if it does not rain tomorrow I shall hold the prayer there. But if it rains it may not be possible to have the prayer there. In that case we shall have it here. In any case the prayer meeting will be held. Thus it is a little uncertain about tomorrow. Of course if you wish, you may come here and if there is no prayer, you can go back.
I saw you laugh at my little umbrella¹. It is a beautiful thing. It costs nothing. It was given to me free of cost not because I am a Mahatma. The fact is that when I was touring in Noakhali,² it was very hot and some people took pity on me and gave me this. They put it on also when it rains. Mostly people have to work in the fields, they cannot do so in the heat of the sun without putting this on. Muslims live there in large numbers. There are Hindus too, but mostly they carry on business. Everyone has this kind of umbrella. There was a Muslim friend there because after all every Muslim did not consider me his enemy and later they had all understood that I had not gone there to plunder them or to prepare a case against them, but I had gone there only to give such solace as I could to the Hindus. So they gave me this umbrella. I did not really need it much there because I did not do more than an hour of walking each day. They also gave one to Nirmal Babu³. When I left Noakhali Manu suggested that I should take along this umbrella because I would have to do a lot of walking in the sun and it would be a good covering for the head. This can be made anywhere. It can be made even here. The other kind of umbrella needs a handle while this has no handle. When it is windy we can tie the string attached to it round the face.
The bhajan that was sung today, though well sung, is really a morning bhajan. In this bhajan we pray to God to wake up. But God is always awake. He never #sleeps. But there is a belief in Hinduism that when dawn breaks everyone must wake up. The devout go round calling everyone to arise. We have bhajans for the morning, bhajans for the noon, bhajans for the evening and bhajans for the night. Only musicologists know all the subtle distinctions. I do not know much but since some bhajan or other is sung here every day I have come to have some idea.
I have a long letter apparently written by a Hindu. He says I have learnt nothing and am still friendly with Muslims, though I have been repeatedly told how stupid it is to imagine that any Muslim can be our brother or be loyal to the Indian Union. If there are any such, he says, I should keep them and send the rest away. If I did not do so, what would happen, he asks, in case, God forbid, a war broke out between India and Pakistan. Do I imagine that the several crores of Muslims in India will be loyal to India and fight against Pakistan? It is easy to pose such questions but difficult to answer them. All that I can say is: Wherever we may choose to live, if we want to live as men we must not assume anyone to be bad till he has been proved to be bad. If you read newspapers you will know that recently about one lakh of Muslims had gathered in Lucknow.⁴ One cannot believe that there was not a single Muslim Leaguer among them. There must have been some, even if there had been no League leaders. If later they betray you, you can shoot them. You may shoot one or two or a certain number. Everyone will not be disloyal. Nowhere in the world can everyone be disloyal. Therefore the correspondent writes out of ignorance. But today he is angry. The barbarities the Muslims have committed are on his brain. He wants all Muslims to be driven out. If similarly Pakistan says that Hindus have committed barbarities here and they should be driven out, I shall say it is foolish to say so. It will be the limit of folly. It is this attitude that was responsible for the partition of the country. If you want to bring the two together, that can be done only if we become good. Only the good and the noble can be brave. Stupid people can never be brave. Today the poison around us is only increasing. Kashmir has added more poison. If there is a war both countries are going to bleed. I do not wish to be alive to see that. I do not wish to be a witness to that carnage. I can only pray to God and ask you all to join in the prayer that He may take me away. Why should we not so conduct ourselves that any conflict between India and Pakistan becomes impossible? We must be brave and trust the Muslims. If later they violate the trust you can cut off their heads. But you cannot say that if anyone refuses to go to Pakistan his head should be cut off. This means cutting off millions of heads on both sides of the border which would be the limit of madness. There are now perhaps thirty or thirty-five millions of Muslims in India. If we harass them we shall not survive as a nation nor can our Hinduism. I pray to God that He may cure us of this folly and this madness so that our country which has advanced may continue to make progress. Today we seem to be falling and the sort of letter that the correspondent has written gives further impetus to the fall. The note is written in English. He writes English quite well, but I cannot praise him for that.
[From Hindi] Courtesy: All India Radio. Also Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 260-1
1. A broad straw hat which Gandhiji used as an umbrella
2. From November 6, 1946 to March 1947
3. Nirmal Kumar Bose, a professor of Calcutta University, who accompanied Gandhiji as his interpreter on his walking tour of Noakhali
4. At the Indian Union Muslims’ Conference, which met on December 27 and 28, Abul Kalam Azad called for the winding up of the Muslim League in India. The Conference unanimously adopted a resolution asking Muslims in India to dissolve all communal and political organizations and advising them to join the Congress.
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Audio courtesy of Gandhi Heritage Portal from All India Radio
Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG) from The Publications Division of Government of India with kind permission of Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad